What to Do When You Get Laid Off

CoolAvenues Newswire | May 15,2014 12:28 pm IST

Being laid off can be an overwhelming, humbling, scary experience. Suddenly, after months or years at a company, you're coldly given the ax and left to fend for yourself.

You don't know where your next meal's coming from; you walk the streets gazing into office windows and remembering the days when you, too, had a job.


But it doesn't have to be like that. Following these steps will help you get back to work as quickly as possible.


Don't Burn Any Bridges

This is the number-one post-layoff rule, and it applies to almost every layoff-related situation. In all your dealings with the company, your supervisor, your human resources representative, and your former coworkers, use "don't burn any bridges" as your personal mantra. You never know when contacts you made at your job will help you in your new life. The company's fortunes could take a turn for the better and you may be invited to return to your old job; a former coworker might find a perfect place for you at his new company; a headhunter might call your old company's HR department looking for someone like you.


If you've kept a professional, cordial relationship with all concerned parties, you'll be able to take advantage of opportunities like these.

Negotiate the Terms of Your Departure

If you're laid off, there's a good chance you'll be offered some kind of severance package, generally a continuation of your salary for a set amount of time. What you may not know is that you do have the ability to negotiate for more benefits. For instance, if your company doesn't offer to keep you on the health plan for a while, at no cost to you, ask it to. If you have stock options and are near a vesting milestone, ask HR to accelerate your vesting schedule. The company may also be able to help you with outplacement services.


You should also try to negotiate for more money. The key is to come across as professionally as you can. Appeal to the company's sense of fairness. Chances are, your managers feel horrible about the layoff and want to be as just as they can with your parting package. Don't be afraid to request as much money as you need. After all, you don't have anything to lose. What are they going to do, fire you?


Understand Your Severance Package

You'll probably be asked to sign something agreeing to keep the details of your severance package secret. You may also be required to sign a non-compete clause (saying that you won't work for any of your company's competitors). Use your intuition and best judgment when asked to sign this one, but keep in mind that the clauses are illegal in some states and unlikely to hold up in court in others. If you have any questions about your benefits package, don't hesitate to ask HR. Before you leave, make sure everything is clear.


Make It Easy for Your Ex-Employer

Be sure the company has updated contact information for you so it can send you your COBRA notice (allowing you to continue purchasing health insurance on your company plan until you find a new job), W2 forms, and any other correspondence.


Decide Whether You're Resigning or Getting Laid off

You'll probably have the chance to decide whether, in official terms, your departure from your company is the result of your resignation or your getting laid off. Discuss this question with HR. My advice is to avoid resigning whenever possible; it may disqualify you for unemployment insurance - and being laid off no longer has the stigma it once did. You may feel strongly about resigning, though, and if this is the case, let HR know.

Get a Reference Letter before You Leave

Ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation before you leave the office. You may be able to write it yourself and have your supervisor sign it. It should include a description of your duties, a verification of the dates of your employment, and, hopefully, unqualified praise for your skills and talents. Even companies with a policy of not providing references will often make an exception in the event of a layoff.


Clean out Your Desk and Computer

In a best-case scenario, the company will allow you privacy and plenty of time to get your personal belongings and computer files out of the office. However, it may watch you to make sure you don't take anything belonging to the company or tell you that you only have a certain amount of time before they'll cut off your computer access.


Try to take your time and be sure you don't leave anything you wouldn't want someone else to see. Remove any confidential information, personal contact lists, and paper files that you'd rather keep to yourself. If you have any personal office supplies, you may have to prove that they belong to you and not the company. Don't lose your cool if you're asked to do this. Remember that the idea is not to burn any bridges and to remain calm and professional.


On your computer, delete all personal e-mails and documents. It's true that nothing is ever completely deleted, but you can at least make personal information more difficult to find. And make your post-employment life easier by transferring important personal documents and files (e-mails, e-mail address books, et cetera) to your home computer or a CD-ROM or floppy disk.


Use and Expand Your Network

Don't be afraid to let people know you've been laid off. Tell family and friends that you're in the market for a new career and ask them to think of any acquaintances or colleagues who might be interested in hiring you. When you meet a stranger at a party or on the bus and he asks you what you do, go ahead and tell him you were recently laid off and you're looking for a job. You never know who might be the key to your new dream career.



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